Daniel Ricciardo is once again the star of the show as he won the Belgian Grand Prix and remains the only man this season to have beaten Mercedes to the finish line. Nico Rosberg finished second while Bottas completes the podium for Williams.
Already before the start there was consternation as Ferrari mechanics failed to get away from Alonso's car 15 seconds before the warm-up lap. Last minute changes with a spare battery still got Alonso going and allowed to start on his 4th grid slot, but as a result of the infringement, Alonso was handed a 5 second stop and go penalty.
As the lights went out, the Belgian Grand Prix got off to a spectacular start with Lewis Hamilton immediately taking charge, upping his teammate through the first turn. Rosberg also lost a place to Vettel but at Les Combes managed to get back into second place after Vettel's failed passing attempt on Hamilton at the end of the Kemmel straight.
On lap two, Rosberg than has a go on Hamilton on the outside of Les Combes. With Hamilton retaining the advantage, Rosberg did not back out of the corner and eventually clipped his front wing against the left rear wheel of Hamilton. The result is catastrophic as Hamilton has to limp back to the pits with a puncture while Rosberg appeared to have lost a big chunk of performance due to his front wing damage.
On lap 4, Alonso drops a position as Ricciardo gets past the Spaniard with DRS. Two laps later Ricciardo moves up another spot as Vettel goes a little bit too much on the curbs between turns 11 and 12, losing valuable traction and his second place.
At the start of lap 8, the front 6 are still very much together. Rosbergs leads, less than a second on Ricciardo, who is ahead of Vettel, Alonso, Bottas and Raikkonen. By turn 6 of that lap though, Bottas gained a position on Alonso, exploiting the additional power from his Mercedes engine. Behind the leading pack, the gaps are a bit larger with Magnussen in 7th, ahead of Button, Kvyat, Perez, Hulkenberg, Vergne.
At the end of that lap, Rosberg pits to change mediums and get a new nose cone fitted. Raikkonen stopped at the same time and rejoins the track 3 seconds ahead of Rosberg. Raikkonen interestingly has continued on the softer tyre.
Lots more pitstops follow from lap 10 on, with Vettel and Kvyat notably rejoining the track in between Raikkonen and Rosberg. The Finn did set two fastest laps following his pitstop.
Alonso pits on lap 12, staying out a bit longer to reduce the effect of his longer stop due to the 5s stop and go penalty from the start. The Spaniard went out on softs, rejoining just behind Perez. Being unable to get past the Mercedes powered Force India on the straight, Alonso grabbed his chance through Rivage, passing Perez on the outside and immediately blasting away to take full advantage of the new tyres.
After Bottas' stop, everybody at the front did make a stop. This left Ricciardo leading the race, 3 seconds ahead of Raikkonen. Vettel is 3rd, closely followed by Rosberg and Bottas. Magnussen is 5th, 6 seconds behind Bottas. Alonso follows in 7th, 2.5s down on the MCLaren. Vergne is 8th, then Perez, Button, Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Gutierrez, Massa, Sutil, Hamilton, Ericsson, Chilton, Grosjean and Bianchi. Maldonado retired from the race, along with Andre Lotterer.
On lap 16, Rosberg attempts get past Vettel at La Chicane, but failing to get it right made him susceptible to a pass himself. Bottas, just behind gladly took that opportunity with both hands and flew past on the straight.
On lap 18 Hamilton pits and changes to the option tyre. 2 laps later Rosberg pits as well, suffering from bad vibration due to the flat spots on his left front tyre created in his passing attempt on Vettel.
While Alonso is somewhat stuck behind Magnussen, the guys behind him are rapidly closing. Button, along with Rosberg and Raikkonen, both of which just pitted for new tyres. 2 laps later however Magnussen pits. One lap later, Button drops down behind Raikkonen after having lost another place to Rosberg.
On lap 26, Rosberg also moved past Alonso to take third while Vettel moves past Button. One lap later Ricciardo pits, and another lap later it's Bottas' turn. Bottas rejoins in 5th, 2 seconds behind Vettel and 4 behind Raikkonen.
By lap 30, this means Ricciardo leads the race, 3.3 seconds ahead of Rosberg. Raikkonen is another 11 additional seconds behind, followed by Vettel and Bottas. Button is 6th, ahead of Magnussen, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Perez, Kvyat, Massa, Vergne, Gutierrez, Sutil, Hamilton, Grosjean, Chilton, Ericsson and Bianchi.
On lap 31, Bottas follows Vettel though the Raidillon, gets out of the slipstream on the straight as Vettel goes defensive and subsequently gets past the Red Bull through the outside of turn 5. Essentially another impressive move by the Finn who can now look ahead to his fellow countryman Raikkonen, 2.3 seconds up the road.
Towards the back of the field, Hamilton keeps going and makes another stop on lap 33 to change to the primes. The Englishman repeated his wish to retire and save the engine but consistently got asked to keep his head down and go for whatever opportunity that would arise.
On lap 34 Rosberg pits from second place, rejoining just ahead of Bottas. The Finn did get through in turn 5 though, but Rosberg's fresh soft tyres paid off to re-take the Finn, and 5 turns later the next Finn up the road, namely Raikkonen in the Ferrari. That lap turned out to be 2.9 seconds faster than race leader Daniel Ricciardo.
Meanwhile the other Ferrari driver, Fernando Alonso is again less than half a second behind Magnussen and looking once again to get past the McLaren. The problem for Alonso is obviously the top speed, as even with DRS wide open the Ferrari is not quick enough to get past or even fully alongside the McLaren by the end of the Kemmel straight.
5 laps from the end, while Bottas gets past Raikkonen, Hamilton is asked to finally retire his car, saving 30kms on the engine but more importantly allowed a no-penalty gearbox change for Monza.
The final few laps became a thrilling fight for 5th, with at times three cars abreast on the straight. In the end, Vettel came home 5th thanks to his fresher option tyres. Magnussen finished 6th, Button 7th and Alonso finally in 8th after completing the final lap slowly having clipped his front wing on Vettel's car in the first corner of the final lap.
In the end, Ricciardo recorded his third win of the season, an unthinkable feat at the start of the season, knowing he's got Vettel on his side and the strength of the Mercedes cars to fight against.
|1||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||44||1:24:36.556||5||25|
|2||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG||44||+3.3 secs||1||18|
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Mercedes||44||+28.0 secs||6||15|
|4||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||44||+36.8 secs||8||12|
|5||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||44||+52.1 secs||3||10|
|6||22||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||44||+54.5 secs||10||8|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||44||+61.1 secs||4||6|
|8||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||44||+64.2 secs||13||4|
|9||26||Daniil Kvyat||STR-Renault||44||+65.3 secs||11||2|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||44||+65.6 secs||18||1|
|11||25||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Renault||44||+71.9 secs||12|
|12||20||Kevin Magnussen *||McLaren-Mercedes||44||+74.2 secs||7|
|13||19||Felipe Massa||Williams-Mercedes||44||+75.9 secs||9|
|14||99||Adrian Sutil||Sauber-Ferrari||44||+82.4 secs||14|
|15||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||44||+90.8 secs||20|
|16||4||Max Chilton||Marussia-Ferrari||43||+1 Lap||19|
|17||9||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham-Renault||43||+1 Lap||22|
|Ret||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||38||Damage||2|
|Ret||45||Andre Lotterer||Caterham-Renault||1||Power unit||21|
Note: Kevin Magnussen finished 6th on the track but later received a 20s penalty for forcing another car off track (car #14, Alonso in a fight at Kemmel straight 3 laps from the end of the race).